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January 12th, 2009

Historian Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s quest to piece together Lincoln’s complex life takes him from Illinois to Gettysburg to Washington, D.C., and face-to-face with people who live with Lincoln every day – relic hunters, re-enactors, and others for whom the study of Lincoln is a passion. Among those weighing in: Pulitzer Prize winners Doris Kearns Goodwin and Tony Kushner; presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; and Lincoln scholars including Harold Holzer, vice chair of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission; Harvard University’s president Drew Faust and history professor David Hebert Donald; Yale University history professor David Blight; and Allen Guelzo of Gettysburg College.

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  • Morgan L.

    I am a Junior in high school who had the option to do an extra credit project for my AP U.S History class. I am very glad i decided to do my project. This documentary, along with this website, gave me a much better understanding about the life of my FAVORITE president. Learning about how Lincoln was not the symbolized “hero” in his time actually gave me a better appreciation for the man, because he had suffered through so much, and ironically he was the man in charge of taking the responsibility to step up and become a REAL hero. Great videos, and amazing website. Now, I cannot wait for the reopening of Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln at Disneyland!!! Haha =)

  • Jun Kyoung

    I say that this is very interesting. [:

  • Joshua

    Excellent work Prof. Gates , I have gained a greater respect for President Lincoln, the Man and the Myth.
    I especialy like the portion with Lerone Bennet Jr., though he desconstructs Lincoln, his accolades to those who worked the Abolishionist movement , more than make up for it. “..One of the greatest generations of white people ever produced in this country..”, is a fitting tribute to those remebered only by acedemics, who did the moral “heavy lifting” for our country for so long.

    Thank You very much for an honest look at our shared history.

  • Michael Young

    This was truly an exordinary program on the life of Abe Lincoln. A man who faced overwhelming obstacles in life with a mountain of confusing issues on how best to accurately do the right things in life and make the best judgements concerning what is right and what is wrong. And even then tho, President Lincoln, may have been confused on rather he was doing the right thing or not, we today, in our modern times can look back and see that indeed, he done what was right, for all mankind. As an American Indian, we too where affected by his leadership. I thank the good Lord, and give Him all the praise and honor in the highest for sending us help as He did with the wisdom our creator gave to this man, known as Abe Lincoln. It’s not the man, I glorified, although he is highly honored and greatly appreciated (and I do believe that Lincoln is with the Lord), but it is God Almighty and His manifold blessings of grace and goodness through His loving Son Jesus Christ, that truly gives all men there freedom. Amen!

  • James

    Stunned! Breathless! Contemplative! These words describe my emotional and rational states of mind after viewing Professor Gate’s newest PBS production, LOOKING FOR LINCOLN. That professor Gates is a historian of significance was never in doubt at any point in this wonderful production. That Mr. Gates would be so unblinkingly truthful, encompassing all of the ugliness and inconsistency that befall all of humanity, raises him beyond being a mere historian. He now ranks with that select number of persons privileged to be called an “American Storyteller”.

  • Paul Bergeron

    The program comes closer to examining the question, “How does forced Union dovetail with Liberty?” which the victors refuse to confront.

  • Deborah Chenault-Green

    I have always enjoyed the work of Dr. Henry Louis Gates. I watch with great anticipation when he does the shows with DNA testing and traces the lineage of people back through the ages. That is why it puzzled me when there was no mention of the claims by Dr. Auset Bakhufu, and noted Antropologist and Historical Researcher Joel A. Rogers that Abraham Lincolm (and 5 other presidents), according to his friend and Law partner, William Herndon, was the son of a mother from Ethiopia. Herndon also stated in his book, “The Hidden Lincoln” that Thomas Lincoln could not have been Abraham Lincoln’s father because he was sterile from childhood mumps and was later castrated. Herndon quotes Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks, as saying that Abraham Lincoln was the illegitimate son of an African man. I expected Dr. Gates to bring this out when he talked about Lincoln’s law partner, but he never did. Are these finding legitimate or myth?

  • Rick from Alabama

    What a great program. I wish I had been taught a more balanced view of our 16th President in Birmingham or bombing-ham as it was called back then. On a different show they showed clips of Reagan, Nixon, etc. praising Lincoln. Bush’s comment about Lincoln’s moral clarity was perfect. It is gratifying that even ultra-conservatives know greatness when they see it. Thank you Dr. Gates!

  • chris green

    Excellent work on Lincoln. I was not aware of his views on slavery, both before and after he became president. It’s clear that he had to do what was most valuable to his political career at the time. Like Malcom X hundred years after Lincoln, he had racist views, but life lessons within some certain realities made him see things in a different light. Like governor Wallace, who was very racist during the civil rights movement, turned his views around before he died and realized what wrong he was thinking. This was an EXCELLENT feature that shows and proves without a doubt that Lincoln was just like the rest of us, HUMAN, which indeed makes him a great American Icon.

  • MadJayhawk

    Deborah: Some of us will need to see Lincoln’s real birth certificate before determining the circumstances surrounding his birth.

  • Diane

    I have to take issue with you Deborah, Thomas Lincoln very likely was not the biological father of Lincoln but I find it incredulous that it would have been an Ethiopian. I did read a few years ago that his biological father most likely was Abraham Enloe. If you see pictures of Mr. Enloe, the resemblance is amazing. According to that story, Lincolns’ mother had an affair with the married Mr. Enloe and when she became pregnant her father managed to get her married off to Thomas Lincoln. Others claim that Lincoln was already born when she married Thomas. Just Google “Abraham Enloe” and you’ll find a plethora of stories regarding his birth. That might explain why Dr. Gates didn’t fly with the story of his father being an African. I’m sure that if there were any actual evidence he would have mentioned it.

    Here’s just a few items that came up on the Google search:

  • charles

    early in the comments someone mention that southern women and children suffered because of the war never mentioning the evil demeaning side of slavery only how wrong it was to mess up the southern system of enslavement excuse me i meant to say the gentile way of southern living. We may never lnow the truths behind what Mr Lincoln was really thinking and at this point does it matter a form of slavery thrived long after the war was over in the form of chain gangs and lynchings .

  • Ellen

    Thank you Dr. Gates for a full and complex portrait of Lincoln. While I have been a holder of the belief in a legend, I came away from “Looking for Lincoln” with a deeper respect and higher regard for our 16th President. Thank you too, to Drs. Holzer, Goodwin and Blight for sharing their scholarship in this richly rewarding portrait.

  • Jessica Campbell

    Great video!
    Helped me so much on my project, very eye opening and interesting.
    Thank you!

  • Chad

    “Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

    Abraham Lincoln
    Second Innaugural Address
    March 4, 1864

  • Anna C.

    How disturbing that this country would celebrate a tyrant who forced a war that killed 600,000 Americans. Very sad.

  • PHDT

    @Jason says: Did you watch the same documentary as I did? I bet you didn’t even watch it.

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  • Marquita Murray

    This is so great. I don’t always watch PBS, but I stayed up till midnight to watch this. I can’t wait to watch this with other people.

  • Brigette Wzorek

    What a great gift item for an avid traveler!

  • Nelson Robison

    Thank you Dr. Gates, for an intriguing and eye opening look at someone’s view of President Abraham Lincoln.
    Your voice a worthy one to share so much of yourself with the viewers of this documentary, honestly sir, I cannot for the life of me think that I would be this open in regards to one of my lifelong heroes.
    With this in mind, I have some commentary to add, I look at the presidency of Abraham Lincoln as one of the most troubled and least understood of all the all the presidencies in our history.
    His suspension of the writ of habeas corpus was one of the most controversial of his presidency. I imagine that his decision to do this was one of the hardest that he had to do, yet with your explanation of his presidential order, “the Emancipation Proclamation” that makes his decision to withdraw habeas corpus a minor affair, although this too was a purely political decision.
    Altogether this was one of the best programs in the historical vein that has been produced by PBS in quite a long time.

State Farm

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